Coffee Research at ICAFE

At ICAFE, research and development is done to find coffee of the best quality, resistance, and yield as they have the financial resources unlike most Tico farmers. About 92% of them are small farmers with 5-10 hectares, so ICAFE’s research helps them to get the most out of their land and crop. An example of a technology they’re developing is a biological controller that’s a “good” fungus, which prevents the growth of a “bad” fungus detrimental to coffee growth. This good fungus also kills the coffee berry borer, which is the major pest of coffee plants. Though this biological controller isn’t as effective as a chemical one, its impact is on the environment is much smaller, and organic farmers can use it. ICAFE is also doing research on the invitro reproduction of coffee, where the plants are grown from leaves of a previous plant within a test tube, essentially creating clones.

A coffee farmer typically seeks the help of ICAFE when they want to figure out the best treatment method for their crop, nutrients to add to their soil, or methods to improve the growing/production process. To figure out what the best treatment is for a crop, a farmer sends in samples of leaves for researchers to evaluate, then ICAFE gives recommendations on what biological or chemical controllers to use. For nutrient advice, a farmer can send in a soil sample to be evaluated, and researchers tell them what nutrients and in what amount so that excess isn’t leached from the soil to surface water. A producer might not want to reach out to ICAFE if they are well-established and have sufficient funding to do their own research. They might want to keep their progress a secret to stay competitive, and thus reaching out to ICAFE could be detrimental. However, many farmers use their services as they all have to pay 1.5% of their revenue towards it regardless of use.

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